Ever since taking over as Vice President Kamala Harris in 2019, Saturday Night Live vet Maya Rudolph has become a regular presence on the show, sticking around for lots of random sketches besides the political cold opens over the past two seasons. But somehow, this weekend marked only the second time she’s actually hosted SNL since she left the cast in 2007. Overall, the episode was fine: a couple of good sketches and a couple forgettable ones, a few absolutely fantastic character moments, and one very exceptional Weekend Update guest. But it was a resounding reminder that Rudolph is one of the all-time great SNL sketch comedians—someone who can masterfully juggle impeccable impressions, song parodies, and weirdo original characters with specificity and without breaking—and deserves her place in the highest levels of the SNL pantheon.
Just take Hot Ones with Beyoncé, a parody of the popular web series in which Rudolph completely owns the sketch with her line readings and reactions.
Boomers Got The Vax was the best ensemble sketch of the night, a late ’90s rap throwback which worked as a pretty catchy song in its own right in addition to having lots of funny moments (my favorite of which was Ego Nwodim bringing back Edith Puthie).
There were two guests on Weekend Update, both of whom were excellent: Cecily Strong played Sidney Powell, continuing her streak of playing grotesque Trump-era people. But Bowen Yang stole the show as himself (a.k.a. “Asian Cast Member”) talking about the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes; it was serious, it was sincere, and it was also hilarious. I only hope that next year, we get to see that gay Passover bunny character.
The 10-to-1 sketch was The Maya-ing, a parody of The Shining which served as both a creepy and sweet look back at Rudolph’s tenure at 30 Rock with guest appearances from Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch.
Rudolph’s Sally O’Flappy deservedly won a few prizes at the 2021 Barfly Awards. But in a sketch in which most of the cast got a chance to play drunk, which they’re all very good at, the real winner was Cecily Strong, queen of playing alcoholics.
SNL resisted its usual urge to put the big political sketch of the night into the cold open slot—and while Kamala still wasn’t my favorite sketch of the night, it at least didn’t leave an awful taste in my mouth. This was all about Vice President Harris (Rudolph) hosting a “unity Seder” with husband Doug Emhoff (Martin Short, a national treasure playing a blank slate), with appearances by Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant), Ella Emhoff (Chloe Fineman), Sen. Raphael Warnock (Kenan Thompson), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Cecily Strong) and President Joe Biden (Alex Moffat) and his dog Major.
The cold open slot instead went to Snatched! Vaxed! or Waxed!, an MTV game show parody about Miami spring breakers which can be summed up with one of Rudolph’s opening lines: “We are so close to the end, let’s ruin it!”
Rudolph’s Monologue was a chance to put the spotlight on the three newest castmembers (Punkie Johnson, Andrew Dismukes, Lauren Holt) with a somewhat disjointed The Breakfast Club riff. It’s the kind of thing SNL usually does toward the start of a new season to introduce the audience to new faces—unfortunately, it just highlighted how little those three have gotten to do this season so far.
Choreographers was a showcase for Rudolph and Thompson to have a lot of silly fun with two loquacious, over-the-top characters.
Just a couple months ago, Pete Davidson parodied Eminem’s “Stan” for a music video about an obsessive Santa fan. It seems Davidson has continued on his Eminem kick, because this weekend he starred in a pre-recorded “Without Me” parody about NFTs. On the one hand, I don’t know who is crying out for a music video parody from 20 years ago; on the other hand, I actually think I know a little more about NFTs now.
Jack Harlow, who I definitely knew was a musician and not a chain of restaurants before this weekend, performed “Same Guy” (with Adam Levine) and a medley of “Tyler Herro” and “WHATS POPPIN.”
SNL has a fun lineup set for next weekend: Daniel Kaluuya will make his hosting debut, joined by musical guest St. Vincent.